Teaching in Botswana
Paul and Miriam Chimhungwe serve with Kgolagano College, Botswana.
The year 2020 was the annus horribilis (horrible year) for the whole world, especially academic institutions, because of COVID-19. We all thought it would last a few months, but alas, it is now approaching two years. We thank God’s intervention because it is now manageable in many countries. The pandemic forced Kgolagano College of Theological Education, Gaborone, Botswana, and Moeding College, Otse, Botswana, where we have been deployed, to re-strategize their operations guided by two cardinal points. First, the safety of their students, administrators, faculty, and staff. Second, the need to sustain the tradition of academic excellence and rigor of lectures, now transplanted to an untested ad-hoc online pedagogy. In achieving these goals, the two colleges opened windows of innovation and revitalization that will become assets in the future as the world learns to live with COVID-19.
We were deployed to Botswana as teachers at these colleges and thanked God for providing resources to sustain our stay. Since we are still waiting for our work permits, working remotely (online) has its challenges. As teachers, we have a passion for the success of our students. However, many in sub-Saharan African countries find it challenging to access essential resources needed to facilitate remote learning. The cost of data and availability of mobile phones or laptops are significant challenges, as is access to the internet. Electronic textbooks are difficult to access. How do you teach students facing these challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic?
In some villages, certain non-governmental organizations and faith-based organizations have facilitated the printing and disseminating of learning material, lessons, and homework to primary and secondary school learners. Some college students have been provided with inexpensive mobile phones to access learning material to communicate with teachers. WhatsApp, a popular communication platform, has been used as a teaching tool where possible. These are difficult situations calling for innovation on the part of academic institutions, lecturers, and students.
For the few students who have access to computers and the internet, Google Classroom has been one of the best tools to deliver lessons. As teachers, we upload our lessons, textbooks, and assignments onto the platform where students can easily access the content. In turn, students can communicate with us regularly. Of course, there is the challenge of time difference. Southern Africa has somewhere between a six or seven-hour time difference to Eastern Time. To accommodate the students’ needs, we must sleep early to catch up with their time, a gesture much appreciated by our learners.
However, teaching chemistry online is a challenge when there is a need for experiments. Teachers have made use of comprehensive YouTube videos. Again, a lot of data is required for downloading the videos, which is a challenge for most learners because it is costly. These are stop-go measures to address the current challenges posed by COVID-19. We hope to resume when the pandemic subsides or when most people have been vaccinated. We must respect those who cannot be vaccinated, but the majority are rolling up their sleeves as the vaccine is made available. We request your prayers that God might open the door for us to move to Botswana and start working in person with our partners. As mission co-workers, our goal is to participate in what God is accomplishing in Botswana: equipping students and learners with the required skills to become agents of positive developmental change in their communities.
Paul and Miriam Chimhungwe serve with Kgolagano College of Theological Education in Botswana. Their appointments are made possible by gifts to the Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, and your special gifts.